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Calculating Time Equivalency in Online/Blended/Virtual Learning

COVID-19 Related Information

Hours of Instruction Wisconsin Statute 121.02(1)(f) requires each school board to annually schedule at least 437 hours of direct pupil instruction in kindergarten, at least 1,050 hours of direct pupil instruction in grades 1 to 6 and at least 1,137 hours of direct pupil instruction in grades 7 to 12. Provisions in the administrative rule allow for virtual instruction to count as hours of instruction. Under administrative rule PI 8.01 (f) scheduled hours may include the hours of instructional programming offered through innovative instructional designs that apply to the entire school or grade level. PI 8.001(6g) defines innovative instructional design as an instructional program aligned to school district standards and used to improve student academic achievement through instruction offered outside of the normal school day, virtually, or in an alternative setting. School districts planning virtual instruction (digital, analog, synchronous, asynchronous, or hybrid) or utilizing a combination of traditional in-person instruction with virtual instruction, may use the provisions of innovative instructional design to count hours of instruction. Under this scenario, hours of instruction should be based on the time teachers are available to students and the school district’s estimate of the amount of time needed to accomplish learning objectives each day. 

Online and Blended Learning Calculation of Time

Online Attendance

Understanding how time “works” in virtual and/or blended courses can be a challenge for schools and instructors. Seat time is an arbitrary unit and does not measure the amount of work represented in the identified learning outcomes that can be quantified and verified by evidence of student achievement. Here are some key considerations on how districts and educators may consider designing course, unit blocks, personalized, or competency learning activities in virtual and/or blended learning.

  • Districts may determine the scheduling of courses that may look like the traditional schedule and counting of Carnegie units for students or determine a variance in the course, weekly, and daily schedules for students to allow for competency verification of student learning.
  • Schools may schedule additional daily or weekly activities to ensure students are accessing school services, instructional services, social-emotional activities, virtual or online extracurriculars, lessons or individualized programming supports, socialization activities, as well as student service teleservice supports.
  • Districts can create personalized, flexible competency or mastery learning time blocks for students that are not tied to a weekly or daily time schedule but allow for students to personalize their completion calendar leveraging online digital content.
  • Educators and support service coordinators may schedule student activities based on onsite and offsite access to staff, the internet, content specific lab experiences, and design of student activities or time to complete work (synchronous and asynchronous)

The amount of time for the verification of identified and verified learning outcomes varies by course, instructor, and student abilities. The variances in time include:

  • Students require less work to achieve identified learning outcomes as well as account for personalized learning goals
  • instructors require a variance of work required to demonstrate identified learning outcomes
  • Student abilities to complete identified learning outcomes identified service or intervention supports, and options for acceleration and expanded learning options
  • Amount of work and student achievement varies by school

How is time calculated for a course contact minutes as part of the student schedule for virtual and/or blended learning? Note - a course or unit can also be or structured as a competency-based learning experience with flexible start and completion dates.

  • Course = # of weeks x minutes/hours = number of credits or competency requirements for mastery of student learning targets
  • *Weekly schedule = course total time divided by the number of weeks = student class time which includes the variance of asynchronous and synchronous activities, individual conferring time, required support services, independent work time,
  • *Daily schedule is determined by the breakdown of weekly minutes or unit-based activities into a defined student on-task time that is developmentally and content subject appropriate, individualized conferring time with the instructor, as well as flexible design options for competency-based mastery learning structures.

Essential questions for designing a virtual and/or blended learning experience that are accessible, welcoming, and inclusive of all learners that are age and developmentally appropriate as well consider student interaction time with screen activities. (source Rochester Institute of Technology - calculator tool)

  1.  How do I determine the total time on task expected of students in synchronous or asynchronous learning activities?
  2.  How can I calculate the time students will need to complete course work?
  3.  What should students be doing to accomplish course goals by consuming or creating knowledge, encouraging student engagement, completing personalized learning goals, and mastering learning outcomes?  The number of screens viewed in the course of online instruction. The average time spent on a “screen” is generally calculated as being between 3-5 minutes per screen.
  4.  What should I be doing with my time as an online instructor?


For questions about this information, contact Amanda Albrecht (608) 267-1071